Ballina Centre of Mission’s Bus
The Ballina Centre of Mission, based in County Mayo in the Republic of Ireland, is building bridges through schools work, Bible studies, and food distribution. The community bus project has been an important resource, parking up around the town and acting as a drop-in hub for people who are isolated, lonely, or those wanting to connect with Jesus.
Ballina is the largest town in County Mayo in the Moy valley surrounded by beautiful mountains. It is home to a divided and polarised community. 10% of the population are from the, often marginalised, traveller community, and there are many isolated farms that surround the town. The area sadly has a particularly high suicide rate.
Church Army’s Emma Rodrigues (Lead Evangelist) and Marian Edwards (Pioneer Evangelist) are based here and catalyse churches and local agencies to help meet the practical, educational, and spiritual needs of people of all ages. They work as part of Ballina Churches Together, an ecumenical partnership formed of the four main Christian denominations – Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist, and Presbyterian. This partnership is particularly special in light of Ireland’s historical tension between Protestant and Catholic groups.
God has also been working in the lives of those – like Oisin* – who drop-in to the bus.
Last September Marian met Oisin whilst in Ballina’s Tesco car park for a drop-in. It became apparent that Oisin was finding life really difficult and was dealing with this through a dependence on alcohol. He’d previously worked for US companies, travelled the world, and supported many charitable endeavours, but life had taken a turn for the worse and Oisin was struggling.
The bus gave Oisin a place to connect with others without judgement and ask his questions about faith. He also asked Marian and the bus project volunteers why they believed in God and why they lived in the way they did.
These conversations were a great way to explore faith, but Marian also says they helped her form a posture of humility; listening, and learning because they didn’t always have the answers to the big questions of life.
Oisin told Marian that he sees Christians as trustworthy people. And so, Marian continues to pray that this trust may be the first step Oisin takes towards discovering Jesus as the centre of mission continues to share God’s love through their actions and their conversations.